Most college students don’t have a lot of money. This isn’t a secret. Learning how to live frugally in college, on the other hand, is a much more elusive set of information. With the right know-how, it can be done, even allowing for some wiggle room to go out on the weekends.
You don’t want to spend the next fifteen years paying off a mountain of debt. By thinking a little more about money now, you’ll make sure you have enough of it in the future.
In this article, we take a look at some tips and tricks for how to stay frugal in college.
Rent Your Textbooks
Textbooks can cost college students thousands of dollars each year. A textbook rental service can sharply reduce these costs. Many colleges offer rental services on site. These book stores are an excellent way to get a great deal on your academic materials.
Fortunately, because of the internet, it’s possible to snag a deal even without a textbook rental service. Amazon is often a great resource for finding rentable or affordable textbooks.
If you can’t rent a book, consider buying used rather than new. Used textbooks are usually significantly more affordable than their newer counterparts.
In either case, always make sure that you select the edition that will be used in your class. Modern Accounting Edition 1 is going to be different than Modern Accounting Edition 3.
College students are known for blowing large quantities of money on pizza and Chinese food. It’s become a stereotype. While there is doubtless some truth to it, however, it’s not Pizza Hut that is running up the national student debt.
College meal plans are extremely expensive. In fact, the average college student spends around $500 every month on their meal plans. The average monthly grocery bill for a single person, on the other hand, is only $200.
It’s such a significant difference, one almost wonders why college meal plans exist at all. There are several ways that they manage to continue appealing to students. For one thing, it can be difficult to cook on campus. While most dorm buildings have a student kitchen, you are forced to share it with dozens of other people.
College meal plans can also be covered through loans. You may be paying $500 a month for the food, but you won’t start getting the bill until after you’ve graduated. For college students who are light on cash, this can make all the difference.
But, while funding your own eating habits will take a little startup cash, it saves you enormous quantities of money in the long run.
Work Smart Too
While minimum wage does seem to be trending upward in most parts of the country, it also doesn’t buy you very much college when you get right down to it. While finding a part-time job may be a good route to take for some college students, there are ways to go about it that are better than others.
Consider working within campus life. RA’s, desk attendants, and other university-run positions often get free or reduced boarding costs in addition to a stipend. This means you can get that $500 a month meal plan at no personal cost, and even save big on that broom closet they call your dorm room.
It’s a win, win.
Bars Kill Budgets
The average college student spends nearly $1000 annually going out drinking. You know how they say “drink responsibly?” Well, that behavior doesn’t fit the bill. In all situations, college students should of course be mindful of the way that they consume alcohol. This is true for their health. It’s also true for their wallets.
When you get drinks at bars, you are paying an enormous markup. Even at crummy college bars, you can rack up a heavy tab in a single night if you aren’t careful. Financially speaking, it makes more sense to buy alcohol from the grocery store than it does from the bar.
Your parents also wouldn’t mind if you considered a different hobby altogether. For instance, have you considered the merits of knitting?
There are many reasons why having a car on campus can be expensive. Parking passes alone can run you a fat bill each month. Then there’s gas, maintenance, insurance, etc. Fortunately, cars are usually not necessary for campus living.
Many colleges are deliberately designed to allow students to get where they need on foot. Those that do not typically feature free or affordable student transportation that will get you where you need to go. Cars are convenient, yes. But they aren’t conducive to frugal college living.
Find Free Entertainment
Many universities are good at providing their students with free or affordable entertainment. For example, a student ID may get you free access to all of your school’s sporting events, and theatrical productions.
Many universities also have student entertainment groups. School improv (it gets cringy, but beggars can’t be choosers) and other student-run entertainment clubs are a great way to get out of the dorm room without spending any money.
Get Good Grades
Some universities will provide minor grants and scholarships even for students who are already enrolled. The key is to get good grades and to know where to look for them. Apply for every grant out there. While $200 may not sound like much when you are subtracting it from $40,000, it all adds up. One day, you’ll be glad not to have the extra bill.
If you are like most college students, your bank account probably doesn’t scream “investment opportunity.” That’s OK. For one thing, you don’t need a fortune to invest your money. College is a great time to learn the art, and to start accruing compound interest.
The stakes here tend to be a little lower for the simple reason that the sums you use are going to be working with are much smaller than they would if you had a higher income. By learning to invest in college, you get the opportunity to build good financial habits, and possibly make good money in the process.
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Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.
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